Friday, January 29, 2016

Keeping Up With The Joneses

We are early into the year so this is one concept which I wanted to reiterate again to readers on the importance of personal finance and not keeping up with the joneses. This strategy helps me a lot in my personal finance, especially in my younger days when everyone was partying away with their youth and money while I kept a distance to keep my balances in check. I'm glad that it's a habit that keeps me going until today.

Spending money on status symbols and brands has been overly emphasized by the media and society as a symbol of success. The media called this the conspicuous consumption, which means the ability to keep up with whatever is in the trends right now. The lesser the supply of these branded good circulating around, the greater the demand because everyone wants to be the person everyone else looks up to apparently.

I wrote an article last year which redefines the conventional wisdom of success. As a society, we need to have a better sense of understanding of what measures the true wisdom of success. Is becoming a doctor a symbol of success or is it the role they play that makes them a success? Does the car a doctor drives need to be defined differently than what a normal office employee drives? 

The truth is these trapping definition of success weighs aplenty on people's mind that they are willing to pay multiple times the value to get what they want. This leads to the problem of personal finance when you are not disciplined enough and your finances are not able to accommodate to your wants.

The following images you will see below shortly speaks volume to what happens in our everyday's lives. We can be at any of the positions at any point in time but the same thoughts will occur. Just think the last time you see a branded car on the street, do you see the car or do you remember the driver's face? 

Everyone will be in a situation that we will envy the better person because he has more of something but that something has better got to do with something useful, not just branded material stuff.

Which one are you?


  1. hi B,

    Comparison is inevitable. In fact, as a blogger, I initially also compare returns, etc.

    Now, I am contented to be a happy average joe than a unhappy Rich man

    When I talk to people, I realize money while might solve some problem, is not the crux of problems we faced. We face people problem.

    My boss just told me she had a brother who kept his mum and a maid alone in a Semi-D while they live in a penthouse down the street

    1. Hi SI

      Hmm, interesting that you see it that way.

      I've actually never really compared my returns to another person other than myself. I knew that if I can get about 8% return over the long run, I will be a very happy man.

  2. Hi B,

    I think it's only normal that we compare what we have with others. It's just how we progress. While we shouldn't compare to make ourselves feel worse off, I think comparing also will remind us to be grateful of what we have and this could spark off a chain of events like philanthropy, etc.

    Imagine if we never put ourselves in others' shoes (this requires comparing), how many people in need would be left unhelped.

    I've always been taught to compare to be grateful of what I have, and not to feel in lack!

    1. Hi Aloypro

      I think your last 2 paragraph there is something that is very important.

      It is important to gauge where we stand ahead of others, but only if we can use them as a good thing and not with some kind of jealousy or envy.

      Thanks for that.

  3. Hi Sillyinvestor, your story seems to end halfway. So what happened to the mother and the maid?

  4. Indeed. Stop comparing is one of the reason why people can effectively save money. In fact, life is only meaningful when we know what we truely needs and wants.

  5. Hi B,

    Trying to keep up with the Joneses is an endless race with dire prospects. We will always find another Jones family that appears to be better off than us.

    But have we had a look behind that facade? Those Joneses might be heavily indebted and not happy at all behind that fa├žade they present to the outside world.

    It helped me to take a different (global) perspective. We in Singapore might think that it's impossible to live on less than 50 K a year. Literally 99% of the world does.

    Taking a trip to a poor country off and on helped me to realize that the world doesn't care how entitled I feel, what I think is "fair," or what real financial hardship is.

  6. Hi B,

    On one hand keep wanting more and keep comparing is never ending,

    On the other hand, if u r over-contented, u ll lose all the motivation n frankly even have lack of exposure n experience in life to speak of let alone Wisdom. Or even wisdom to teach ur next generation if that is IMPT to u!

    Everything in moderation.

    Guess when u r young, the motivation n energy need to be there. One day, u climb higher, u ll realise certain things r not impt anymore. But if u r all ur life at a very bottom place where u cannot see anything, then it is quite difficult in today's society.

    To be honest, if u think deeper, u may not know what the person driving the Lamborghini is thinking. Maybe he is not comparing n keep wanting to want more as most others think about him.

    He just want to drive a car he wanted.

    Maybe he will look at those being frugal and keep talking about financial freedom from the same set of eyes (opposite) those frugal r looking at him.

    He will say why want financial freedom, just be contented and appreciate what u have.

    So end of the day, I reckon it's better to focus on urself. if i have Frds that spend on branded n cars, n not in all sorts of debts, n still living ok, I just be happy for them, while u focus on my own dreams!

  7. The last picture made me feel humble and appreciative of what I'm already having. Thank you for a great reminder!



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